Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Ash Wednesday Scriptural Scribblings

Joel 2:12-18 ... New American Bible

Even now, says the LORD,
˙˙return to me with your whole heart,
˙˙with fasting, and weeping, and mourning;
Rend your hearts, not your garments,
˙˙and return to the LORD, your God.
For gracious and merciful is he,
˙˙slow to anger, rich in kindness,
˙˙and relenting in punishment.
Perhaps he will again relent
˙˙and leave behind him a blessing,
Offerings and libations
˙˙for the LORD, your God.

Blow the trumpet in Zion!
˙˙proclaim a fast,
˙˙call an assembly;
Gather the people,
˙˙notify the congregation;
Assemble the elders,
˙˙gather the children
˙˙and the infants at the breast;
Let the bridegroom quit his room
˙˙and the bride her chamber.
Between the porch and the altar
˙˙let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep,
And say, "Spare, O LORD, your people,
˙˙and make not your heritage a reproach,
˙˙with the nations ruling over them!
Why should they say among the peoples,
˙˙'Where is their God?' "

Then the LORD was stirred to concern for his land
˙˙and took pity on his people.
As odd as it might seem, given that this is a nun's blog, I don't often put too much direct churchy kind of stuff on here. I suppose that probably has something to do with the fact that doing direct churchy kind of stuff is one of my big areas for improvement. Ellipsis had me pegged pretty good when she dubbed me the "Reluctant Nun"! But, I figured it's Ash Wednesday, which, at least for us Catholics, is a pretty major day kicking off a pretty major season of trying to get more into the churchy kinds of things. Thus, I thought I'd at least post one of the readings for tomorrow's liturgy. Not that I necessarily even have anything overly profound to say about them, but .... at least I'm trying, right?

I love that "perhaps" — what a great word! All about hope (although when I use it, it's generally more of wishful thinking, like "Maybe if we're lucky, he'll give us another chance."). And the "leave behind" ... like God has his arms full of blessings and we're hoping that he'll drop one? Forget to pick it up? Or is it more that "We know we don't really deserve to have him actually give us a blessing, but if he could just leave it on the kitchen table ...."?

OK, like I said, not always the most serious. Did I ever mention dispelling nun-myths?

I was really struck, though, by the whole first half of that second section: "Blow the trumpet, gather the people, assemble the elders, notify the congregation." This is not just me & God — it's a communal thing. So come on now, folks, get out there. We need all of you. Yes, you old people .... and don't forget the kids, either. It's your wedding night? There'll be time for that later. Right now, we need to show God that we mean business.

But the lectionary only gives a hint at what follows. The LORD was stirred to concern for his land and took pity on his people. What it continues with God saying to his people: See, I will send you grain, and wine, and oil, and you shall be filled with them; No more will I make you a reproach among the nations ...... You shall eat and be filled, and shall praise the name of the LORD, your God, Because he has dealt wondrously with you; my people shall nevermore be put to shame. And you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel; I am the LORD, your God, and there is no other; my people shall nevermore be put to shame.

Whoo-hoo — it all pays off!!! For a while, anyway .... until we start slacking once more.

But that's why we've then got Paul telling us in 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2 .... actually, he's imploring us, begging us "on behalf of Christ" to be reconciled to God. But it's great, because right after Paul implores us to be reconciled, he uses the phrase "working together" — yup, it's that whole community thing all over again. Unfortunately, that "working together" thing is something we don't always do so well with (even when living in a religious community!), particularly when we're all too busy deciding that my God can beat up your God with one arm tied behind his back. But, we gotta try to work together.

And something I hadn't noticed before (although it might just be a translational thing) — I've known the line as "Now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation." But reading the NAB I notice that it's "Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation." A very subtle shift, from the to a ... but what a difference it makes. It's not like it's a one-shot deal and .... oops, we missed it. There'll be plenty of opportunities .... oh look, here's one now — let's take advantage of it!

The Gospel for today comes from Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18 (leaving out the interruption of the Our Father), where Jesus tells the disciples to pray, give alms, and fast in secret — don't make a big show of it, because then you're just doing it to get credit with the folks around you. Which, at least to me, seemed kinda contradictory to all the community stuff I saw in the first two readings. But then I realized .... it's about the general versus the specifics. We can come together as a church community to support one another in our Lenten practices, but that doesn't mean I have to know exactly what it is that each person is doing. Besides, how horrible would that be? "Hey, Athanasius, do you want to grab some dinner together? You do? Oh, that's great! Thanks a lot! See, for my Lenten practice I decided that I'd make a point to do something with someone that I really can't stand. Dinner with you will really help get my Lent up and running!" It's kinda like praying for people and their intentions. Sometimes (most times) we don't know the full story. But does that mean that we can't put in a good word with God on their behalf? No. God's smart enough to fill in the gaps that our lack of knowledge provides.

So .... my summary? Come together with other folks in community to help support one another through Lent (and life), but don't make a big deal over your own stuff (in terms of bragging rights, anyway). There's a difference between reaching out to others and going in .... and reaching in to yourself and forcing it on others.

Not that I'm saying you shouldn't share your stuff with others, but if you're not leaving room for others to share with you ..... well, then, what's the likelihood that you're leaving room for God to sneak in?

So those are the Random Midnight Ramblings from the Stephster ... take 'em for what they're worth.

Happy Lent, folks. Play nice!

No commentaries were harmed {or even opened} in the filming writing of this entry.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Lorna said...

nice job Steph

"Blow the trumpet, gather the people, assemble the elders, notify the congregation." is important. We - not I only- are the body of Christ. We step into lent together to encourage and seek Him, not compete.

you nailed it sis

3/01/2006 4:15 AM  
Blogger Kiker said...

Thanks for the reflections, Steph.

Definitely helped my Lent get up and running. ;)

Just wanted you to know that I am thinking of you.

3/01/2006 12:13 PM  
Anonymous jeana said...

Thanks for the guided lectio, Steph. Good thoughts. Your take on the private individual in contrast with the public communal aspect of prayer seems right on. Blessings for a holy Lent!

3/02/2006 10:21 AM  

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